Treating volunteers right

TLDR: Most volunteers will get free entry, a t-shirt, and two drink tokens.

Furry events run on volunteers in exchange for free entry — that’s no surprise. Some events “sweeten the pot” with drinks, food, a volunteer lounge, or even crash space. Money rarely comes into play.

But money is paid to people outside the community for professional services such as equipment rental. That’s also no surprise.

So what does an organiser do when a “volunteer’s” efforts bleed into professional expertise? What about when the volunteer has to put out some of their own money? What about those who contribute extra?

T-shirt with nerd
Wait for it…

These are questions I’ve been asking myself for a while. I’ve learned that giving too much is just as bad as giving too little as people start thinking in terms of “what will I get out of this?” and resentment grows. So I’ve asked around within the community of furry event organisers: Here’s how it’s working out for Otterdance I:

  • Safety Team volunteers get free entry, two drink tokens, and a t-shirt.
  • DJs get free entry, two drink tokens, a t-shirt, and a small honorarium (payment) — more than enough to cover travel and direct expenses.
  • Live Drawers get free entry, two drink tokens, and a t-shirt.
  • Fursuiter Guests of Honor get free entry and a t-shirt.

Note that:

  • Drink tokens are good for a soft drink, basic beer (Gulpener or Weihenstephaner), or house wine.
  • Anyone receiving a t-shirt must confirm their participation before 1 March.
  • The amount of compensation will be discussed privately with DJs.

SO: If you can help, now’s the time to register at the links above!

Otterdance t-shirt

About furry safety

After I posted drafts of the flyer, questions arose on the Otterdance chat about where, exactly, those flyers would be distributed. I said it would be at cafés and such in the neighbourhood — as well as at WORM itself, of course.

That led to a spirited debate about inclusion and exclusion, about how people come into the fandom, about the qualifications of being a “furry”. In the end what (I think) really came out: We don’t want people spilling beer on our suits. We don’t want to be grabbed. We don’t want people pointing and laughing. We want to be the furs we are among ourselves. At the same time we want to stay open to ourselves and future furs.

I firmly believe that a just society regulates behaviour, not individuals. That belief is a big part of why I’m a furry: We are not our incarnations. Someone who looks like they’ll be a problem usually isn’t; they just remind you of a past bully. Give each person a chance to be good.

On the other side of that coin, however, is enforcement. When someone has bad behaviour, how do you respond? Are you prepared to respond? Do you have the will to come down on them hard? Most people don’t.

Which brings us back to Otterdance. This is a new question for many of us, but it’s one that WORM has found ways to answer. They’ve hosted several clubs for targeted minorities, such as Klauw for queer blacks & people of color. (Next one on Valentine’s Day!)

  • First, they staff their parties well and make staff visible.
  • Second, they check in with people at the front door to make sure they know what they’re getting into. I don’t know whether these door people have the power to block entry; but they make clear what’s expected, which I imagine discourages bad behaviour.

What we’re doing

  1. At Rae’s suggestion, we’re re-tooling the vague “volunteer” position into roles in a “Safety Team”. We’re aiming for three Safety Team members on duty at all times — one at the door, one on the floor, one at the headless lounge. Please help!
  2. We’ve posted a list of Rules & Tips in all three languages. These will be strictly enforced by the Safety Team.
  3. There will be a highly visible “trefpunt” (meeting point) at the event where furs can gather for companions to walk to the tram, metro, or train station.

With three two-hour shifts, we need nine positions filled. If you can help (in exchange for free entry!), please apply.

Status report, 27 January 2020

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Otterdance!

  • Tickets went on sale on 10 January. (Buy yours here.)
  • We opened up spots for volunteers, DJs, “live drawers”, Artist’s Alley vendors, and Fursuit Guests of Honour.
  • Met with WORM’s cultural programmer Rae and technical coordinator Anka on 23 January to nail down some details.
  • While there, Rae showed us around!
  • Printed flyers to be distributed at other furry events (including Furrave this weekend!). Thanks again to @DarkFaolan for the Dutch translation (and letting us use the picture of his Panriel suit), and to @nlorierArt for letting us depict her Hazel Horse suit.
  • Oh, did I mention the website is now also available in Dutch and French? Thanks to @DarkFaolan and @khakidoggy for the Dutch and @h4furi for the French.
  • The Telegram discussion group is at around 40 members and growing.

In short, all is well!

Status report, 31 October (boo!)

After some discussion, we’ve decided to part ways with the venue. We’re on good terms and are looking for another. Criteria:

  • Accessible to both furries and the public alike.
  • Near Rotterdam Centraal Station
  • Big enough for at least fifty dancing fools
  • Separate room for the headless lounge.

I’ll be talking to other spots, but welcome your ideas. As always, join the Otterdam discussion group on Telegram to take part!

Status report, 29 June

Hi, folks. The venue that expressed an interest in Otterdance is on break for the summer, and has been slow to follow up. This might mean the event will happen later than expected, i.e. after November. We’ll keep you informed.

Status report, 7 June

Now that the event has been announced, folks have been asking what’s been done already. So here’s a summary:

  • Had a first meeting with the person in charge of the venue. He’s enthusiastic and believes we’ll be able to do it. However, he also just went on a week-long trip to Berlin, so that part’s going to be stalled for a while. (No big deal: We have plenty of time.)
  • Also spoke with the hostel. They confirmed that dates in October and November haven’t been opened up to the general public yet, and explained how a group reservation would work.
  • Started discussion and announcement groups, and a private planning group, on Telegram. Started a Twitter account.
  • Created the website and survey (to gauge interest).
  • Contacted about a half-dozen experienced furry event planners. Three of them joined the planning group, one each from NL, FR, and GB.

Sorry we can’t name the venues yet — we don’t want to do that until talks have gone further. As always, the place for discussion is on the @Otterdam group on Telegram.